Pro golfer Marc Leishman, wife Audrey provide meals for local hospital workers

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. – Monday, Virginia Beach professional golfer Marc Leishman, along with his wife Audrey, announced their annual charity event has been postponed.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Begin Again Foundation’s New Beginnings Gala and Begin Again Celebrity Classic has been moved from April 19th/20th to September 13th/14th. These new dates are pending based on any changes to the PGA Tour schedule. Marc is currently the No. 15 ranked golfer in the world.

The New Beginnings Gala and Begin Again Celebrity Classic are massive fundraisers for our community, raising nearly $500,000 last year. However, the Leishmans are hoping to turn a negative into a positive.

As the coronavirus impacts our area, forcing cancellations of many events – including the Begin Again Foundation’s charity weekend, the couple posted Monday that they will be supporting the heroes who are keeping our friends, families and neighbors safe. Read more from WTKR’s Adam Winkler

Leishman’s Foundation Gives Back with Meals for Hospital Workers

The grim news we are hearing daily about the COVID-19 pandemic has brought back painful memories for Audrey Leishman.

Five years ago, she was in a Virginia Beach, Virginia, hospital fighting for her life. In addition to sepsis and toxic shock syndrome, she had acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), the same thing that has proven so deadly to countless coronavirus patients across the world.

“ARDS is the worst thing I have ever gone through,” she said recently. “It felt like I was drowning.”

“It was the worst time of her life,” Audrey’s husband Marc echoed. “It was the worst time in my life, too. I didn’t even have it.”

Like so many of the COVID-19 patients with ARDS, Audrey was put on a ventilator for five days. The doctors told Marc that his wife had just a 5 percent chance of survival, and the couple said they loved each other for what might have been one last time.

But Audrey fought. So did her doctors and nurses.

And they saved her life.

So, when the COVID-19 pandemic began invading the United States, Audrey and Marc, the five-time PGA TOUR champion, knew what they wanted to do. They wanted to find a way to help the emergency room and ICU staffs in hospitals near their Virginia Beach home who were on the front lines every day.

“With our personal experience of me getting sick, we realized how hard these doctors, nurses, the support staff, respiratory therapists, how hard they all work to keep patients alive,” Audrey explained. “I wouldn’t be here without them, and so we wanted to support them.”

But how? Audrey texted the pulmonologist who she says saved her life, as well as one of the physician’s assistants on her case. She also contacted some of her friends who are nurses. What did they need? How could the Leishman’s aptly named Begin Again Foundation make a difference?

While the lack of personal protective equipment for healthcare workers is, she said, “literally keeping me awake at night,” she knew that was too vast a problem to tackle. Other friends simply told her to pray for them. Her response? “Absolutely, but I want to do more than that.”

Someone mentioned that restaurants were afraid to deliver food to the hospitals, and suddenly the Leishmans had an idea. They have lots of friends in the hospitality industry, people who have donated food and other services for the Begin Again Foundation’s celebrity golf classic over the last four years.

With restaurants closed to in-house dining and able only to offer takeout in these days of stay-at-home orders and social distancing, those businesses were suffering, too. Why not help them by buying meals that might allow the owners to pay employees for a little bit longer, then having them delivered to different hospitals? Read more from PGA TOUR.com

A word from our founders, Marc & Audrey Leishman

Our annual Begin Again Celebrity Classic wouldn’t be possible without the support of many local restaurants over the years.

In light of changes impacting small businesses everywhere, we are supporting those who have supported us.

Starting today, we are working with local restaurant partners who have supported our events to provide meals to our front-line healthcare workers in the EDs and ICUs.

From a Party to the ER and now learning how to live again…

On March 2, 2016, I had a lumpectomy to remove 2 suspicious lesions in my right breast. I remember the surgeon had a red nose that morning, like she’d been crying or had a cold. And I remember waking up and hearing that she got all of it – those worrisome lesions were gone. The procedure was outpatient, and within a day or so I was back to work as a fundraising professional for a cause I loved. About two and a half weeks later I noticed that the incision on my chest was weeping fluid. I called the nurse at the surgeon’s office and was told that an antibacterial ointment would be fine to apply to the wound, and to watch for any change. There was no change that I could see, but a few days later I began to suddenly feel extremely ill at a neighbor’s cocktail party after work. I was ridiculously thirsty and my back began to feel as if I was in labor (I wasn’t pregnant). After drinking glass after glass of water I felt nauseated and thought I might have a stomach virus or the flu so walked the half a block to my house. I began shivering uncontrollably as I walked in the front door and told my husband I needed to lay down and couldn’t help with dinner.

I called the doctor’s office after hours and had the doctor on-call paged. I was told to call back if my temperature rose above 102 or if anything else changed, and to call in the morning to see a doctor about the issue. My temperature remained at 102 all night, as my shivering continued, teeth chattering as I fell in and out of sleep. I remember opening my eyes and feeling as if they were covered in a film or glaze the next morning. My entire body hurt – like a painful sunburn on the inside of my skin and it was everything I had to fight to get up, to walk, to do anything. And the back pain… I dutifully called the doctor’s office the minute they opened and was told that there were no doctors in that morning, and to go straight to the ER. I was annoyed to have to go to the ER, because I’d done as the doctor had said and called first thing in the morning. It was a work day, so I threw on some work clothes, got in my car, and drove to the ER. I thought I’d stop in to the ER, they’d give me a shot or something and I’d then head in to the office. Boy, was I wrong.

The attendants at the ER desk whisked me into triage and then quickly into the back to be assessed by the medical team. I must have looked awful like I felt. A high school friend, now a nurse, was the first person I saw in that treatment room. She quickly got an IV in, then a doctor walked in and I heard the word “sepsis” – and then things get blurry.

I remember needles being stuck into my healing wound, into my breast, and the team trying to aspirate something with no luck. They were looking for the source of infection. My kidneys were failing and my heart was erratic. I had emergency surgery the next morning and the right breast was debrided. A pocket of infection was found deep in the breast and so a wide margin was removed along with the infection. The wound was left open with a drain. I kept asking about my back pain.

There were IVs in both arms, leg compression bands on both legs, monitors attached to my chest, back, and hand. I was given blood thinner shots every three hours in my abdomen, and checked for signs of infection all over my body regularly. Any urine I produced was screened by a nurse, and I was bleeding at the time. Looking back I’m not sure if I was menstruating or if it was my first episode of gross hematuria, urinating blood due to kidney malfunction. My veins were so weak it took 9 attempts to complete one of my regular IV changes. The heart monitor would ding incessantly and every time I would cry, or laugh, a nurse would run in and tell me and any visitors to calm down.

One afternoon, after a nurse left my room I saw something amazing – a tunnel of what looked like angelic warriors clad in pure platinum began to spin above my head. And then a ring of pure white warrior angels flew into formation spinning in the opposite direction. It was one of the most profoundly beautiful things I’ve ever seen besides the birth of each of my children. I felt a choice had to be made and saw my children’s faces, and then felt a pull through my body toward the ground. And the tunnel slowly faded. 

The breast wound was cleaned and dressed twice a day at first and I remember being so relieved when the drain was removed. I was nauseated and had no energy, and really struggled to walk with assistance to the door of my room on my first attempt up. My husband would help me on my regular “field trips” as far as I could make it down the hall. When I was released from the hospital the sun was so bright – I remember looking away from it and down at my legs and feeling horrified at the look of my skin. The muscles in my calves were gone and my skin was pasty white and so wrinkled.

My husband and my dad helped me wash my hair for the first time once I was back at home. My husband became my wound nurse – once my home health care nurses graduated me out of their care my husband cleaned the open would and bandaged it meticulously each time. The wound was open for the entire summer, slowly healing. My body was so depleted after sepsis, I was severely anemic, my kidneys continued to fight through infection after infection, and I was utterly exhausted. Things hurt that never had before – my joints ached. Every step was like a dagger cutting into my feet. When I had a follow up with the surgeon who performed the original lumpectomy, I asked her why I was still so tired. She told me I should just get a cup of coffee and get on with my life. 

I was left with anemia and colitis, and learned through my sepsis experience that I have chronic kidney disease. Physical therapy helped build some of the strength I lost. I couldn’t watch TV or listen to the radio for quite a while once I was at home. The noise and chaos would put me over the edge. I had night sweats and nightmares for months. My body reacted poorly to so many things inside and out after sepsis – new antibiotics, food, my wedding ring and my memory – it’s terrible now. There are so many things I’ve forgotten. It felt like I had to learn to speak again – I couldn’t look someone in the eye and talk for months after sepsis. I played word games on my phone and read as much as I could stand just to find the words again. It was painful and embarrassing. The pain in my joints continues, and I’ve noticed cold days are the worst.

Through it all, I’m thankful for my incredible husband and my family, my friends who knew to “do” instead of asking if they “could do” anything – and my new friend Audrey Leishman. As I searched for answers to the sepsis riddle after release from the hospital I stumbled across Audrey’s story. That connection has helped me on my darkest days, and now being able to help others impacted by sepsis through the Begin Again Foundation makes all of the pain bearable.

  • April Strickland, Sepsis Survivor and Begin Again Foundation Board Member

A Walking Talking Miracle

On September 25, 2011. I started feeling bad on a 7-hour road trip back to North Carolina from Tennessee. I felt feverish and it continued to get worse over the next week. A lot worse. Numerous trips to the doctor and emergency room, spinal taps, CAT scans, debilitating migraine headaches, violent vomiting, dehydration, more blood work, more urinalysis, chest x-rays.

​Then the night of October 25, 2011, arrived. Late that Wednesday night after a spinal tap, several x-rays and ultrasounds, more blood work and my fever spiking to almost 106 … I managed to finally give one more urine sample that took everything I had in me just to get out of that bed. That urine sample I gave was dark brown almost black and the final test that told doctors this was more serious than they thought. And then I heard something said by a doctor that I never should have heard. “She’s dying.” And within minutes I was being rushed to ICU.

​By this point, I had become somewhat disoriented but I knew enough to pick my chart up off my stretcher as we were going to ICU to see what my admitting diagnosis was. And there it was in big bold letters. My beast. The ugly beast that reared it’s head and was killing me that night. SEPTIC SHOCK. I knew what this was. I had worked in medical malpractice defense law firms for 15 years. This was not good. And I knew it. I couldn’t believe what I was reading. How did I get sepsis to begin with? And how did I have it bad enough that my body had gone into septic shock?​

Basically my body was poisoning itself to death. My organs had started shutting down. My kidneys obviously were on the list since my urine was almost black. My heart rate sky rocketed trying to keep up with my body. My fever was over 105. My blood pressure dropped to dangerously low numbers. My gallbladder all but quit. My digestive system went haywire.
My head hurt so bad that it felt like someone was swinging a ball bat against the back of my skull constantly. No pain meds were helping.I just hurt. Badly!

​I was swollen from all of the fluids they were pumping in me. I couldn’t breathe. I became agitated and confused. I had so many wires and monitors hooked up to me in ICU. My veins collapsed from the dehydration to the point I had to have a port put into a major vein in my arm.

​It was bad. I was dying. And I knew it. They could not figure out what was wrong. I had some type of infection but my body was rejecting any type of antibiotic treatments. It was not looking good for me. The survival rate for septic shock is not very good especially if it gets to where I was. I was sick. But I was so hopped up on so much medications for everything that I just really didn’t know what was going on.

The first several days of ICU are just a fog to me still to this day.  About day 5 in the ICU, my body finally started reacting to an antibiotic treatment but I wholeheartedly think that was because of the prayer I laid there and said.  I was so sick I wanted to die but I also didn’t want to leave my kids behind.  So I just prayed “Father, hold me.”  The doctors and nurses said they couldn’t explain it.  They had already told my husband that I wouldn’t live through the night and I closed my eyes to die when I whispered that prayer.  I just remember my room lighting up a bright peaceful and wonderful white light and feeling like I was being picked up and held in someone’s lap in my bed.  But that is about the time, my body started reacting to the last course of antibiotics. My heart rate started going down, my blood pressure started going back up.  I look at it that I am a walking talking MIRACLE!  

I spent a week in the ICU unit and another week in the step-down unit before I finally got to go home.  My discharge diagnosis: Ehrlichiosis (a tick-born illness) even though they are not 100% sure that was the culprit.  Possibility a UTI was behind it as well.  

I knew that I had hundreds of prayers going up for me the entire time. I have amazing prayer warrior friends. I had people praying for me that I didn’t even know! And for that I’m thankful.

I spent two months at home unable to work or do much of anything. I was eventually able to get back in the swing of things somewhat. But not without post-sepsis residuals. And as time has gone on, I still have traumatic effects from it both physically and mentally.  As a result, I have Post-Sepsis Syndrome, Complex PTSD, anxiety, depression, exhaustion, chronic nerve and muscle pain, cognitive disorder, a heart problem, an immune deficiency, Occipital Neuralgia headaches, and affects my facial paralysis sometimes.  

But I am so very thankful to be alive and beat the odds stacked against me that night. This beast has made me have a passion for those who have survived the illness as well as the care-takers and families of those who were not so lucky.  I am an ambassador for The Begin Again Foundation as well as an Advocate for sepsis survivors and a member of the American Trauma Society.   More of my story and about sepsis can be found on my website www.kimberlyhackettllc.com.

  • Kimberly Hacket, Sepsis Survivor and Sepsis Ambassador

TOUR players rally to Australian bushfire relief cause

HONOLULU – Australian PGA TOUR players Marc Leishman and Cameron Smith have kickstarted a campaign to help with the extensive bushfire crisis that has overrun their home country and have called upon their fellow TOUR pros from all nations to join the cause.

Leishman and Smith have vowed to donate funds for every birdie and eagle they make at this week’s Sony Open in Hawaii and have already received significant support from fellow Australian players in the field in Matt Jones, Cameron Davis, Cameron Percy and Rhein Gibson.

In a huge boost to the cause, the Presidents Cup – which was recently held in Melbourne Australia – and the PGA TOUR have committed to match any figures raised by any player in the Sony Open field up to $125,000. Smith and Leishman were both members of the International team in the competition. Continue reading on PGATour.com

Virginia Beach pro golfer Marc Leishman pledges donations to bushfires in home country of Australia

Honolulu, HI – As Marc Leishman plays golf in Hawaii this week, he’ll be playing for his home country.

Leishman, a Virginia Beach resident, is from Warrnambool, Australia. His homeland is currently being devastated by bushfires.

The No. 28 ranked golfer in the world has pledged to donate  $500 for every birdie and $1,000 for every eagle he records during this week’s PGA TOUR Sony Open in Hawaii. Additionally, several other organizations have pledged their support to bring the total donation per birdie to $850 and $2300 per eagle. Continue reading on WTKR.com

A young life turned upside down and now on a different kind of mission!

My name is Alycia. I am about to turn 30 years old but was diagnosed with sepsis when I was 27. In October of 2017 my life was really coming together; I had a fantastic job, a new beautiful apartment and I had just adopted a little pug puppy. Shortly after making these accomplishments I started to feel sick. The best way I could explain what I was feeling is to say that it felt like I had a cold in my head and it just hadn’t fallen into my chest yet. I went to my primary and she diagnosed my symptoms as a sinus infection and prescribed me antibiotics. After 11 days of taking the medication nothing had changed and my symptoms just seemed to be getting worse. My boss advised me to go back to the doctor because she was concerned it might turn into something worse which it eventually did.

I took my boss’s advice and made another appointment but unfortunately, my primary was unavailable so I needed to be seen by another physician. I must have looked like death sitting in the waiting room. I could barely hold myself up. This doctor believed that I was misdiagnosed; that it wasn’t a sinus infection at all. Sadly he couldn’t name what it was but regardless he tested me for mono.

At this point going to work was out of the question. I had only been working at this company for about 4 months so I was blowing through my limited sick days and then my vacation days and then the sick days my coworkers donated to me. Nothing was improving so my Dad (who was by my side through all the doctors’ appointments) and I didn’t see the point of returning to my primary doctor so we tried an “Urgent Care” walk in facility.

We pulled up to the office. I could barely even get out of the car. I had developed a splitting headache. My Dad had to hold me up as a shuffled my feet into the building. When they took me back to the examination room the nurse could see how much of a struggle it was for me. The doctor came in and spoke to both my father, and myself, since I could barely get a sentence out. She decided I should get a chest x-ray. The nurse taking me to the x-ray machine took pity on me and tried to make the process as easy as possible.

After the doctor read the x-ray she came back with the diagnosis, pneumonia. As odd as it may seem, we were thrilled! There was a diagnosis, there was a clear way to treat it, and there was no more confusion. Seeing how weak I was sprawled across the examination table where I was waiting she decided I should be given an IV for fluids. She told us that after the dose of fluids most people feel brand new and can jump up and walk out no problem. I wish that was the case for me.

I was given several bags of fluid and nothing. I felt just as miserable. We asked what the next step should be. The doctor replied that sometimes the fluids take 48 hours to take full effect and if the fluids didn’t then the emergency room would be next. She advised if we had gone to the emergency room right then that they would just replicate everything we had just done. We took her advice and gave it 48 hours. Sadly, I kept slipping further and further away. My headache was getting worse. I could barely move, or even speak. My Dad ended up calling a nurse from our insurance company. She had asked to speak to me directly. After 2 minutes she said to hang up and call 911.

Once in the hospital I spoke to the woman in triage and told her that I had pneumonia and discussed a few other symptoms. Sadly, after being seen by the emergency room doctor my wonderful diagnosis was taken from me. I was told it was not pneumonia. The hospital performed so many tests it went from trying to find what I had to ruling out what I didn’t have. We tested for Lyme, mono, the flu, strep, my thyroid, my heart, and the list went on and on. At about 4:00 am I finally asked the doctor if we could just finish these tests as an outpatient since it was clear we weren’t getting anywhere. She looked right at me and told me I was not going anywhere. I was told if I had not come in my infection would have killed me. She pointed out that my heartbeat was 140 BPM, sometimes reaching even higher, and that it seemed that I had both a viral and bacterial infection. 

The doctors had to guess at the antibiotic to give me since it was unclear what had started the infection. Regardless, they did put double doses of antibiotics into my IV alternating with fluids. I was in the hospital for 5 days and went through at least 14 bags of fluid. We were given the diagnosis, sepsis of unknown origin.

For the past 2+ years I have been wrestling with what doctors are now calling Post Sepsis Syndrome. I have been to several types of doctors in an attempt to cure my symptoms. I have been to a primary care physician, a cardiologist, a nephrologist, a psychiatrist, a holistic doctor, a rheumatologist, physical therapists, and a specialist on Sepsis. Besides traditional medicine I have explored alternative therapies like reiki, reflexology, acupuncture, and therapeutic massage. Even after meeting with all of these complimentary medical professionals I have no definitive answers, just theories and experiments. No one can tell if my symptoms are the result of my sepsis infection, my Post Sepsis Syndrome, or if it’s something else. My quality of life has been taken from me. At 30 years old, I am no longer able to work, live on my own, or have personal relationships outside of the medical field.

Sadly, sepsis and Post Sepsis Syndrome are poorly understood, and therefore there has been very little research done. If anything I just wish there was more awareness of this very serious, dangerous illness and its aftermath. 

I have dedicated the little energy I do have into spreading awareness, becoming an advocate for other Post Sepsis Syndrome patients as well as a support system for them as well. A local newspaper has helped me in my quest by writing about my experiences and struggles. Also, a local television news station interviewed me for a feature on sepsis that I brought to their attention. I am excited to continue my journey by also becoming a Sepsis Ambassador for the Begin Again Foundation. Hopefully this will help educate the community.

  • Alycia, Sepsis Survivor

The True Definition of Perserverance

I am pretty health 54 year old woman who had a challenging year.  Bleeding ulcers in January, Shingles from Valentines day to Easter…then in an attempt to regain my health I started hiking.

On May 18 my baby graduated from Rockhurst University in KC. Being the vain person I can be…I wore heels.  I got a couple of blisters but being a tough lady..(NCAA division 1 soccer player, coach, beneficiary of 2 new knees in Nov. 2015) a couple of blisters…no big deal. Went hiking the next weekend….on Monday my foot was sore so I thought I needed new shoes.

On Tuesday and Wednesday the pain was increasing and on Thursday I finally went to urgent care where I was told I had Tendonitis.  Friday, I could not physically go to work.  Saturday I became violently ill, vomiting, chills, agitated, beginning of becoming mentally altered.  

My daughter who is a Physician Assistant, living in Indianapolis and preparing for a move to Colorado Springs to start a job told my husband to get me to the ER and she was on her way to St. Louis to be with me. 

We went to Mercy South in St. Louis where  I was whisked back to the treatment room.  After several rounds of test and many many questions of which many I could not answer….for example, what year was it, what year was I born, who was the president… I received a diagnosis of cellulitis, MRSA, Staph and then later the sepsis diagnosis! 

My blood pressure was low, ammonia levels were through the roof, heart rate of 130 BPM.  So the treatment began, antibiotics, blood transfusions, oxygen.  On Wednesday they did a surgical procedure to drain the foot infection.  I was in the hospital for six days.  I think back at the level of pain…no sleep, and total delusion.

I was finally released and sent home with a PIC line, I did four injections three times a day for the next three weeks.  Home health visited until the middle of August.  I was able to return to work on a limited basis starting two weeks after diagnosis.  If I had had a job that was not desk based I would not have been able to return to work for 5 months….therefore exceeding FMLA and could have lost my job.

I am much better off than many.  I have resumed a pretty normal life….hiking again, traveling, however I am now on the liver transplant list and undergoing extensive and costly testing.  

I really do know how lucky I am ….the mortality rate of this illness is frightening.  I could have easily lost my foot if I had waited 8 more hours, death at 24 hours.  The infection could have settled in my new knee replacements meaning I would have had to have two new knees which would require open wound for three months and months or years of rehab…or the possibility of being a double amputee.

My family and I realize the magnitude of all of this…we choose humor to deal with all of this.  We laugh at my hubby who insisted at the time this was due to tramadol and diet coke…he also made me put my foot in a bucket of ice water for 15 minutes to reduce pain and swelling (it did neither)

I have always been involved in healthcare,  My daughter is a PA and my niece a family medicine doctor.  Neither of them remotely thought of sepsis at the beginning. 

I really did not understand the seriousness of the illness until I met with my physicians after discharge.

I feel a strong need to help support others with this through support, education and raising funds for those who are not as blessed as Iam…..sometimes bad things happen for good reasons and I now have a new mission in life.  I am a very persistent woman who feels it is time to pay it forward and help others in anyway possible.  

  • Mallarry, Sepsis Survivor